The First Night With Your Puppy Guide
The time has finally come! You are ready to welcome a puppy into your home. But sooner or later, questions will start arising. Am I doing this right? Why is the puppy crying? Can I let the puppy sleep in my bed?
These are all legitimate questions, but here is what I want you to know right at the start: it will be ok. The first night might be hard both for you and your pup, but you will get through this and manage to form a bond of love with your new canine companion.
However, it’s still important to know what you are doing and know how to behave towards your puppy right from the start. This guide is here to make sure your first night with a puppy goes right.
Understanding Your New Puppy
The day when a puppy comes into a new home is important. It’s not only exciting for you, but also for the little one. In fact, moving into your home is the biggest event in your puppy’s life so far. Understanding this will set you on the right path and help you understand why puppies behave the way they do.
Puppies are usually about 8 weeks old when they come into their homes. Up until this point, the puppy has spent most if not all of its time in the company of his or her mother and the rest of the litter. Puppies are not used to being alone and this will be a learning process for them.
Related: How To Introduce A Puppy To Your Dog.
The first day in your home will be a day full of strong impressions and experiences for your pup. But it is the first night when they might start feeling the most lonely. Just think about it: puppies usually sleep in a pile of warm bodies, all snuggled up with their mother and siblings. It’s only natural that the puppy will be missing this warmth - it is the only way to sleep they have known so far.
Where Should a Puppy Sleep on the First Night?
The main question of the first night with your puppy is where they should sleep. People who have not had experience with dogs can have all sorts of assumptions. Some expect the dog can sleep in a kennel outside right from the start, or at least a crate somewhere out of the way. On the other hand, many pet parents don’t want to let the poor pup sleep alone and are considering letting the puppy sleep in their bed. If you’ve scoured the web for the answer, you’ve probably encountered lots of advice saying a puppy should absolutely sleep in a crate right from the start.
So which of these options is right? The truth is, there are no hard and fast rules (but no, your puppy cannot sleep outside on the first night). The key is creating a safe space for your pup. A crate is a good idea indeed, but don’t expect that you can just put the puppy away and it will sleep there through the night.
On the first night especially, the puppy will be missing the comfort of its mom and siblings. This is why it’s good advice to sleep in the same room as your pup. You can set up the crate or the puppy pen in your bedroom so your puppy feels you are close. On the other hand, if you don’t plan to let the puppy roam your bedroom in the future, you might choose to set up the crate in the living room and sleep there for the first couple of nights.
Now, a puppy doesn't necessarily need a crate, but there should be a designated sleeping area where your puppy feels comfortable and can be left alone
Crate Training a Puppy on the First Night
If you plan to start crate training your puppy, there is no better time to start than now. Have the crate already in place when the puppy arrives in your home. If you plan for the puppy to sleep in the crate on the first night, they should get used to the space already during the first day.
The key is getting the puppy to understand the crate is a space where they can relax and not a form of punishment.
“When crate training is done properly, most dogs enjoy spending time in them and view the crate as their own special place. The most important thing is to make the crate a pleasant experience from day one” - Kelly Armour, PetMD (1)
To get started, you might use the classic trick of luring the puppy into the crate with treats. Leave the door open, and just let the pup get inside to get the treat. Repeat this a couple of times, until the puppy starts getting comfortable getting into the crate. Over time, you can gradually increase the time spent in the crate, but be prepared to start slow: even five minutes spent inside is a good sign.
Ideally, you would place the puppy into the crate in the evening and it would sleep through the night inside, whining only when it’s time for a potty break. But that’s not what happens in most cases. If you try to force a puppy into the crate, you can end up with more problems later on.
“If a puppy has a strong aversion to the crate, separation anxiety may be at play, Dogs with separation anxiety often can't handle being crated and guardians have reported that their dogs have broken crate bars, cracked their teeth or caused their paws to bleed trying to escape it” - Meghan D’Arcy, Modern Dog Magazine (2)
In short, give the crate a try already on the first night (and day) if you plan on using it later on. The idea is to get the puppy to understand that the crate is their safe space. But especially on the first night, your puppy might need more comfort than usual, so don’t be too strict.
Related: New Puppy Checklist.
Have a Potty Plan in Place
Young puppies can’t hold it in for very long. A common rule of thumb is that you should expect a puppy to hold it in for about as many hours as the months of their age. So, a 2-month old puppy should go potty every 2-3 hours.
Of course, this is not a scientifically proven act and there are differences between individual puppies. In any case, more likely than not your puppy will need to use the toilet at least once during the night.
Related: How To Toilet Train A Puppy.
You have two options here: either wake up during the night to take the puppy outside or provide an area with a pee pad where the puppy can relieve itself. The first option is more advisable as you will be teaching the puppy to go potty outdoors instead of indoors, but if that’s not feasible, then you’ll have to make do with the second option.
When a Puppy Cries…
One of the most difficult moments in a new pet parent's life is when a puppy cries the first night they are in your home. Why is the puppy crying and what can you do about it? Well, on the first night, there are two likely reasons why the puppy would cry: loneliness or needing to go potty (3).
You’ll often find advice to ignore the puppy crying in the crate in order not to teach them that whining gets them what they want. While you certainly don’t want to reward a crying puppy with fun and playtime each time, we suggest you take it easy during the first few nights.
For a start, you might try showing the puppy that you are there. Put your hand in or near the crate, give the puppy a little cuddle and try to help it calm down. If nothing works, do let the puppy out of the crate. You don’t want it to feel like a prison. If you feel comfortable with that, you can even let the puppy sleep in your bed for a start.
Tips for Keeping a Puppy Calm on the First Night
Stay close. As mentioned above, your new puppy might be scared and needs to feel your touch and warmth.
Make sure the crate/bed is warm and inviting. Most puppies feel calmer in a small comfy space.
Offer comforting smells. A common trick is getting a blanket or a similar object from your breeder that smells like the puppy’s mom. Place this in the crate to help the puppy come down. If that’s not an option, you can also give the puppy something that smells like you.
Consider offering comfort items. Not all dogs need this, but some can benefit from a fluffy toy or even one of those heartbeat toys. These are not scientifically proven but they do work for some pups.
Tire the puppy out before bed. Before your puppy goes to sleep, make sure they have a good playtime session to get them tired and sleepy.
Provide enough toilet breaks. Your puppy will probably need to pee in the middle of the night, so be ready for that.
Taking care of a tiny puppy is a big responsibility. And the first time is always scary. In the end, even if you do everything right, the first night can be messy, with lots of crying and not enough sleep.
If that happens, just try to stay calm and patient. Some puppies need time to get used to their new home.
Although it is not a must, it is recommended to stay close to the puppy on the first night. As one might imagine, the puppy will feel all sorts of fear and excitement on the first night in a new environment.
Staying close can help them feel calmer. One easy way to set this up is by placing the dog crate near your bed. If you don’t want the dog crate in your bedroom, perhaps consider sleeping on the couch for the first couple of nights to help the pup feel safer.
Letting a puppy sleep in your bed is not for everyone, but if you are fine with it, go ahead and let the puppy in. Just keep in mind that the puppy might end up peeing in your bed, so definitely don’t use your best sheets. If you don’t want the pup to sleep in your bed forever, you will have to work on phasing out that behaviour, but no, we don’t think letting a puppy sleep in your bed on the first night is a very big deal.
No, you definitely shouldn’t ignore your pup’s cries. Don’t reward crying with playtime or treats, but do show your puppy that you are there. Puppies need to feel loved and safe.
Not necessarily, but most puppies will need to use the toilet during the night when they are 8 weeks old. Around 16 weeks of age, most puppies will be able to sleep through the night without going potty.
- Blumenstock, K. September 4, 2018. “How to Make Your Dog’s Crate Feel Like Home”. PetMD. Retrieved May 3, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-make-your-dogs-crate-feel-home
- Todd, Z. “What to Do When Your Puppy Cries At Night In His Crate”. Modern Dog Magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2022. https://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/what-do-when-your-puppy-cries-night-his-crate/129031
- Tolford, K. January 27, 2017. “Puppy Crying: Why it Happens and How to Help”. PetMD. Retrieved May 2, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/puppy-crying-why-it-happens-and-how-help